There seems to be no shortage of clubs that are interested in signing 22-year-old Argentine forward Maximiliano Urruti. Toronto FC are just one club in a long line that have been linked with him over recent months but Newell's Old Boys have not been eager to sell the young forward.
When TFC seemed close to signing the forward in the spring the deal was never concluded because his club decided they did not want to sell the player as they were in the middle of a deep run in the Copa Libertadores. Now that they are out of that competition and the potential suitors are lining up for the forward it seems their hand is going to be forced.
Newell's did not seem as if they were going to give Urruti the major pay raise he was looking for or transfer him to a club that would do so and it seems to have forced Urruti to take things into his own hands. A variety of South American outlets are reporting (check here and here for a start) that the forward who is in the final year of his contact has packed up his locker and left the club.
Urruti has a year remaining on his contract with NOB but the reports are claiming that the rules allow for a player under the age of 23 to walk away from their contract in the final year. The closest thing in the FIFA rules to explaining how that would work comes out of the Webster Ruling which opened the door for players to buy themselves out of the later years of their contracts.
The Webster Ruling, named for former Hearts player Andy Webster, allows a player to buyout their own contract after the first three seasons if they are under the age of 28 and just two seasons for players over 28-years-old. Since Urruit first signed for NOB over three year's ago and is in the final year of a four-and-a-half year deal he would be able to buy out the remainder of his contract and become a free agent without needing to find just cause under the Webster ruling.
The Webster Ruling was initially compared to the Bosman Ruling which opened the door for free transfers in countries where they previously could not take place but since that initial ruling it has had a very limited impact on the game. In fact, there is a prominent example of the Webster Ruling not taking precedent and that is the Matuzalem ruling. In that case the player tried to leave Shaktar Donetsk after serving three years of his five year contract by paying out the remainder of his contract but the club claimed they should be paid his minimum release clause which was 25-million. The Court of Arbitration for Sport siding with the club and ended up awarding them nearly 12-million Euros in compensation.
The big difference between Webster and Metuzalem was the relationship between the player and the club at the time of their exit. Metuzalem was a key player for Shaktar and not someone that they wanted to lose while Webster was being frozen out and being offered a reduced wage.
It is possible that Urruti feels his case is similar to that of Webster despite the fact that he was a regular substitute for NOB last season and in the Copa Lib. The reports suggest that he is on a very low wage and is only earning the sort of salary that would be expected for an amateur player which could provide him with enough of a case to buyout the remained of his contract and move on.
The rules that could come into play in such a move are quite muddy though so it is hard to say if Urruti will just be able to walk away from his contract and NOB. The other option is that his actions force the club to meet his demands and finally transfer him. With so many clubs having reported interest in the player there are almost certainly offers on the table that the club could accept ensuring that they do not lose the player for nothing while also giving Urruti what he wants.
Toronto FC and Pumas UNAM are the two clubs that have had the strongest links to interest in Urruti over recent months and either club could land him at a discounted price because of all this going on. They will almost certainly not be the only clubs looking to swoop in for the player though so if TFC are hoping to land Urruti they may need to send a serious offer his way. If they intend to bring him in as a young DP then they could very well offer him the kind of salary that he would have a hard time turning down considering that money seems to be the main point of contention between Urruti and Newell's at this point in time.
For now though the only thing that seems clear in this whole mess is that it is going to take some time to get sorted out. Urruti packing up his things and missing training on Thursday puts the pressure squarely on Newell's to do something with the player but now it is a matter of seeing how the club responds.
Hopefully, this gets sorted out with a lot less mess and fuss than the Joao Plata situation with TFC last summer. One way or another we should get a clear idea in the coming days (remember the transfer window closes in a week) whether Urruti will wind up at BMO Field or if after months of chasing him the club will wind up coming up empty.